Health care providers are changing their approach to COVID-19 vaccination — moving toward making the shots as easily accessible and convenient as possible.
On Friday, the Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and the Borough Office of Emergency Management teamed up to offer one of the first mass walk-in vaccine clinics on the peninsula at Soldotna Prep School.
Justin Ruffridge, a pharmacist with Soldotna Professional, said on Friday that they are trying to eliminate vaccine barriers.
“When you’re ready to do that (get vaccinated), we’re here,” he said. “There are no hurdles.”
Office of Emergency Management Operations Manager Bud Sexton said there are still people coming to get their shots at every clinic.
“There are many people every week making that decision, and we are encouraged by that,” he said.
Soldotna resident Leah McCabe got her first Pfizer-BioNTech dose last Friday. She saw a sign advertising the walk-in clinic in town earlier that day.
McCabe recently accepted a job with Pacific Star Seafoods Inc. in Kenai, and said her employers are requiring the vaccine. She said she was definitely on the fence about whether or not she was going to get the shot, but ended up doing it for work.
“I wish there was more information about the vaccine but overall I’m happy to get it,” McCabe said on Friday. “I think it’s a good step for everybody.”
When she arrived on Friday for her shot, she filled out some paperwork and decided which brand she wanted. Afterward, McCabe waited in the observation area to make sure she didn’t have an allergic reaction.
Salamatof resident Erik Hendrickson saw one of the clinic’s flyers at River City Books and decided to walk in for his vaccine.
He said he wanted to wait four months to see how everyone who got vaccinated earlier in the year reacted to the shots before he got his.
Hendrickson ultimately chose the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday so he’d be fully inoculated by the time he travels next month.
Another Soldotna resident, Leena Elmore, said she came to the school to get her Johnson & Johnson shot because it was close to her house.
She said she hadn’t decided on whether or not she wanted the vaccine until last week, but ultimately decided on the single-dose shot so she’d be safer traveling this summer.
Sexton said he and his team have fielded a lot of the public’s vaccine questions during the clinics, and that some people have decided on the spot to get the shots after speaking with clinic volunteers.
Vaccination rates across the borough and the state have been increasing at a slower rate over the past month. Ruffridge said this is not a cause for concern, but that these are just “new phases of vaccination.”
He said he hosted clinics a few months ago in which his team would administer 800 vaccines in a day. On Friday he said a decent day would be if 60 people got their shots.
Anyone who gets vaccinated, Ruffridge said, is likely overcoming a hurdle and having the courage to do something they might not have wanted to do.
“That makes it worthwhile in my opinion,” he said.
The Soldotna Professional Pharmacy will also be hosting a regular walk-in vaccine clinic at the “Y” intersection in Soldotna throughout the summer. The kickoff was on Monday evening and will continue weekdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.